In Memoriam: Mario M. Cuomo (1932-2015)

It is with great sadness that the partners, counsel, associates, and staff of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP mourn the passing of our distinguished friend, partner and counsel, Mario M. Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo exemplified our firm’s 125-year tradition of practicing law at the highest level.  His 20 years of service to clients epitomizes the true pinnacle of our profession: sage advisor and formidable adversary. Governor Cuomo gave generously of his time to colleagues and staff  at Willkie and we admired him greatly. At our firm, he continued his legendary oratory, with talks that were thought-provoking, intellectually elegant, and always entertaining. He frequently devoted time to speak with those whose path he crossed daily in our offices, and particularly enjoyed speaking with young lawyers starting out in their careers, sharing his insights about the rule of law and its place in society, the contribution and influence of immigrants, and state and national politics.

Following an illustrious career in public service, Governor Cuomo  joined our firm as a partner on February 15, 1995 having served as Governor of New York State for three terms, and he remained a valued member of the Willkie family until his death.  He was elected New York State's 52nd Governor in 1982 and won re-election in both 1986 and 1990. He was the longest serving Democratic governor in the modern history of New York State.  At Willkie, he specialized in litigation, corporate transactions, special corporate investigations, and mediations.

Governor Cuomo was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York, the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. He received a J.D. (summa cum laude) from St. John's University School of Law in 1956, where he tied for top-of-the-class honors, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) from St. John’s University in 1953.

He served 13 years as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University School of Law and clerked for New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, under Judge Adrian P. Burke.

Governor Cuomo was the recent recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the New York Law Journal in recognition of his career accomplishments and the profound impact he has made on the law, in New York’s legal community, and as New York State’s Governor.

We send our deepest sympathies to Mario’s wife, Matilda, to his children, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Margaret Cuomo, Maria Cuomo Cole, Madeline Cuomo O'Donoghue, Christopher Cuomo, and to all of his extended family.

New York Life to Acquire Majority of John Hancock’s Participating Whole Life Insurance; Sell its Retirement Plan Services Business to Hancock

On December 23, Willkie client New York Life announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire, through reinsurance, 60 percent of John Hancock Financial’s closed block, comprised primarily of participating whole life insurance. The block of 1.3 million policies was closed in connection with John Hancock’s demutualization in 2000, and includes more than $11 billion in liabilities. Through a reinsurance arrangement, New York Life will assume all of the liabilities and retrocede 40% of them back to Hancock. The policies have a face amount of more than $25 billion.

Under a separate agreement announced on the same day, New York Life Investment Management disclosed it had signed an agreement to sell its Retirement Plan Services business (RPS) to John Hancock. RPS provides retirement plan solutions and administrative, custody, consulting and investment services to U.S. corporate and union retirement plans. Hancock has announced that it will merge RPS with John Hancock Retirement Plan Services. The combined business will cover 55,000 retirement plans across the United States.

Both transactions are expected to close in the first half of 2015, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The Willkie team for the reinsurance matter included Alexander Dye, Elizabeth Bannigan, David Drewes, Christopher Peters, Robin Spigel, Matthew Stern, Timothy DeKeyser, Yevgeniy Markov and Bhavna Agnihotri. The Willkie team for the RPS sale included Alexander Dye, Christopher Petito, Eugene Chang, Christopher Peters, Jonathan Konoff, Peter Allman, Mike Brandt, Amir Ghavi, Robert Larimore, Zelda Ferguson, Alexis Anzelone, Tara Thieme, Joshua Parker, Douglas Hollins and Tyler Warner.